AUGUSTA – Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage announced Thursday that he intends to veto the Legislature’s budget proposal and called on Democratic leaders to join him in negotiating a 60-day continuing resolution (CR) to fund state government so a better budget can be crafted.
“This budget makes us all victims,” said Maine State Director of Americans for Prosperity Carol Weston during a rally in the Hall of Flags at the State House.
“Even though you work harder, you’ll bring home less,” said Weston, who introduced the governor. “This budget needs a veto.”
Standing before an enthusiastic crowd of several dozen supporters, a cheery yet serious LePage recalled the series of events that had led to this point.
“I submitted my balanced budget in January. And after months of early morning drinking bills and teen tanning bills, Democrats finally found time to do the budget,” said LePage. “Their budget raises taxes on hard working Mainers.”
“I’m here to tell you, I will veto that budget.”
The governor said that while neither Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) nor House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) made any attempt to discuss the budget with him over the last five months, he attempted to go to the Appropriations Committee but was shot down.
Rather than negotiate, said the governor, Democrats chose to raise the threat of a government shutdown in order to force their agenda – a threat that has led many Republicans, including House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), to support the tax-increasing budget.
“A government shutdown – that’s how they get weak Republicans to cave,” said LePage.
To great cheers from his supporters, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to representing taxpayers – the only group, he said, that is not represented in the State House.
“I will continue to fight against tax increases – even the little ones,” he said.
Mary Adams, Maine Chair of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge project, has been in the Augusta fighting against taxes and for limited government for more than four decades. Following the governor’s remarks, she delivered a rousing speech in support of LePage’s veto, and offered some harsh words for the press, too.
“In 40 years I have not seen this kind of intelligence, real compassion, business ability and courage all wrapped up in one governor,” said Adams. “Sadly, the government at all levels is exceeding our ability to pay for it – or live with it. We see it in our tax bills, the growing Nanny State, the reduction of our Constitutional freedoms, and our lifeless economy,” she said.
Adams, who led a successful effort to repeal that state property tax in 1977, said previous governors and legislatures have caved to the “takers” – a class of individuals who are content to remain dependent on the myriad public assistance programs that perennially strain the state budget. She said that LePage’s principled stance has helped place Maine on a path of renewal and hope.
“Governor, you’ve got a huge fan club in the ordinary people of Maine who see through the smoke and mirrors of Augusta and who urge you to keep on keeping on,” she said.
As for the news media present, Adams issued a stern and urgent call. “The press better wake up to what’s going on here,” she said.
Less than ten minutes after LePage proposed a compromise that could potentially avoid both tax hikes and a government shutdown, Democrats rejected the governor’s overture.
Democratic leaders Alfond and Eves were nowhere to be found during the press conference.
The Democratic rebuttal came instead from Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), who reiterated early statements in which he called the Legislature’s budget proposal the best compromise he’s ever been a part of.
In response to a reporter’s question about LePage’s proposed 60-day C.R., Jackson said, “I think that’s something we don’t need to talk about right now.”
Jackson’s comments seem to indicate that Democrats will remain unwilling to compromise with the governor to avoid tax increases and a government shutdown.
In response to Jackson’s comments, LePage lampooned the senator from Aroostook for his actions during the 126th Legislature.
“[Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jackson] claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline,” said LePage. He said Jackson’s legislative activity involved trying to take away his pension and sell the Blaine House.
“That’s the kind of guy he is,” said LePage. “People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back into the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work.”
LePage’s game-changing proposal places responsibility for a potential government shutdown squarely on Democrats’ shoulders — a fact Democrats and liberal activists will surely reject. But if Republicans cannot muster the votes to sustain the governor’s veto, then the strategic threat of a shutdown will have served its purpose.
Although House Republican Leader Fredette voted in favor of the tax-increasing budget and did not attend today’s press conference, several Republicans in the Legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau (R-Winterport), Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) and Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough), support the governor’s veto and proposed C.R., and there are signs that even more Republicans will stand with the governor.
“I’m not going to go back to my constituents in Washington County and tell them that the only way to balance the budget was to raise their taxes,” said Rep. Lockman, who was part of a group of conservative Republicans who two weeks ago suggested a comprehensive package of spending cuts to the Appropriations Committee.
“What [Assistant Majority Leader Jackson] says about tax cuts not being paid for doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” he said. “We know now that state revenues have increased from 2011 to 2012 and from 2012 to now—even with the governor’s tax cuts.”
“Forcing Mainers to pay more for Augusta’s irresponsibility is not the solution,” said Lockman.
“Democrats should answer the governor’s call, come to the table like grown-ups, and negotiate a budget that works for Mainers, not just the governing class.”
Maine Wire Reporter